Tha Sports Junkies 101

Blaney Battles Through for Pocono Win



What a year of upsets it has been in NASCAR. In Sunday’s Axalta 400 at Pocono Raceway, Kyle Busch was 9 laps away from a dominating win. It would have been both his first win of 2017 and his first win at Pocono. But this was all taken away from Busch by Ryan Blaney, who blasted by to score his first career Cup Series win. Blaney is the third driver to get his first career win in 2017.

Kyle Busch started the day from the pole, and would go on to lead 100 of the 160 laps. He won Stage 1, and finished right behind Kyle Larson in Stage 2. The early stages of the race were defined by long green flag runs. There were only 2 cautions for wrecks in the first 2 stages.

On the final restart with 16 laps to go Busch was leading, and everyone behind him had fresher tires. Busch got a great launch on the restart, as second-place Brad Keselowski faltered.  The 18 car eyed Victory Lane and a spot in the Playoffs. With 9 laps to go, Blaney was able to capitalize on a strong run off of turn 3. After losing the lead, Busch fell all the way back to 9th place.

Blaney also had to hold off a late race charge from Kevin Harvick. Harvick had the faster car and was closing in on the 21, but ran out of time. What makes Blaney’s win more impressive is the fact that he held off 2 former champions to secure his victory. Blaney locked himself into the NASCAR Playoffs with this win.

Prior to the end of Stage 2 there was a vicious wreck in turn 1. Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray both had simultaneous brake failure.  They were both going in excess of 200 miles per hour, thankfully both drivers escaped uninjured. Mechanical failures were the story of the race for Hendrick Motorsports, as only Chase Elliott was able to finish without incident.

Sunday’s win marks the 99th victory for the storied Wood Brothers Racing Team. This was their first win since Trevor Bayne’s upset in the 2011 Daytona 500. Ryan Blaney is coincidentally the 21st driver to win a Cup race in the 21 car.

Young drivers have been the story of the year in NASCAR’s Cup Series. Whether it’s Larson, the Dillons, Stenhouse, Blaney, Elliott, or others; they have all made their mark on stock car racing in 2017. With their success also comes the struggles of established stars and contenders in the sport. Drivers such as Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Dale Jr, and others are all winless this season. Blaney’s win only further complicates the Playoff picture, as he is the 9th different race winner in 14 races.